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Reynolds might have heard her last hurrah


Gov. Kim Reynolds may have “jumped the shark,” as they say in the TV biz, by going all-in with Ron DeSantis presumably with Washington in her dreams.

Reynolds and her Republican majority in the legislature went whole-hog with the agenda the Florida governor cast in concert with the Moms for Liberty: book bans, muzzling teachers who talk about race in history class, a six-week abortion ban, right on down the line.

It looked like it was working for DeSantis. He clobbered Charlie Crist. Likewise Reynolds, who steamrolled Deirdre DeJear. Appearances can be deceiving in the face of paper opponents.

The legislature has solid Republican majorities, an ideal climate for overreach.

Voters liked the sound of $2 billion in tax cuts. They weren’t so crazy about Reynolds deciding which books their children may read. In November municipal and school elections, the Moms for Liberty and their agenda lost statewide, even in Pella and Carroll.

That was a warning shot.

Reynolds endorsed DeSantis for president, straying from the general tradition of Iowa governors not overtly endorsing presidential candidates. She also threw caution to the wind by dissing Donald Trump. The former president declared Reynolds was finished.

Just before the Iowa Caucuses, Trump stood on stage with Attorney General Brenna Bird and suggested that Bird will be governor one day. Bird was reared politically by former Rep. Steve King, who is not best friends with Reynolds.

This is all bad news for Reynolds, who is among the most unpopular governors in America alongside DeSantis. Look what her endorsement got him: 42 points behind Trump in Buena Vista County. That’s a wow. DeSantis dropped out and endorsed Trump. His demise came with the endorsement from Reynolds.

She came up from the Clarke County Treasurer’s Office through a couple years in the Iowa Senate to lieutenant governor, where she spent six years dutifully standing one step behind Gov. Terry Branstad’s right flank with a smile pasted on. She did well at smiling.

When Branstad decamped for China as Trump’s ambassador in 2017, Reynolds moved into Terrace Hill. Trump claimed that he put her there. She fell in with DeSantis, probably thinking she could be vice president, which infuriated Trump. Republicans like Trump more than Reynolds, and a whale of a lot more than DeSantis.

She will not be vice president. Not Trump’s, anyhow.

Trump did not anoint Bird by accident.

King is making moves after he was deposed by the Republican Establishment when they got tired of his tirades. King played the role of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the messiah Trump and getting beheaded along the route. He is climbing out of the grave. King is never far from the body politic. King has picked up on populist rumblings against carbon dioxide pipelines serving ethanol plants. It’s a powerful issue in Northwest Iowa, the beating heart of the Republican Party, and Reynolds is on the wrong side of it. If Trump can get away with peddling the Great Replacement Theory — that colored folk will steal your White franchise — why can’t a revived King do the same?

The governor sounded adrift in her Condition of the State Address as the DeSantis campaign veered toward the electoral shoals. She was for increasing beginning teacher pay but for gutting Area Education Agencies. On second thought, after her speech she threw out the AEA bloodletting on rural schools. A stumble starts her session.

She started out sassy like Sen. Joni Ernst, clever with a simple phrase like “make them squeal.” The difference is that Ernst never got mean about it. Sassy turned to snarly when Reynolds melded minds with DeSantis and aroused the great golden bear Trump.

People who hang around the Capitol say Reynolds will not run for re-election in 2026. We won’t know until Reynolds says so. Brenna Bird grinned from ear to ear just like Reynolds once did with Trump. Politics turn on a dime. What is true yesterday is not true tomorrow. Voters are not exactly enthusiastic about Iowa’s direction. State Auditor Rob Sand and House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst have noticed and are positioning themselves. Sand steered clear of taking on Reynolds two years ago but certainly sounds more confident about it today. Konfrst could impress by picking up some House seats this November. Her future depends on it.

Reynolds was invincible. Now blood is in the water. She is scaling back her legislative ambitions. Income tax cuts top the agenda, which unifies a fractured base. Eventually, snarky doesn’t wear well in Iowa. Mean is worse, rejecting federal aid so poor kids could get better food in the summer. It never helps when the liar-in-chief is determined to bury you. The next campaign does not look like as much fun, especially with an ambitious Bird fluttering in the wings and maybe a Steve King return from the oblivion of Kiron.


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